Australia’s biggest building industry union has been fined for threatening ‘war’ on construction contractor John Holland over a dispute at a train station upgrade site in Melbourne.
Federal Court Justice Christopher Jessop has ordered the Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union to pay fines of $22,500 and $26,250 and organiser Joseph Myles to pay fines of $3,000 and $3,750 respectively over two separate incidents in relation to the union’s attempts to coerce building contractor John Holland to comply with its lawful request to engage a union delegate at the site of the Mitcham train station upgrade in Melbourne’s eastern suburbs in August 2013.
In his judgement, Myles said the union had threatened ‘war’ with John Holland if the company did not have union representation on the site and that the union could mobilise ‘100 guys’ at the entrance to the site within a short time frame if this did not happen.
On August 22, many employees of subcontractors did not work following a pre-work meeting which Myles organised, and Myles threatened the managing director of one subcontractor that his company ‘won’t have a job in Melbourne’ if his staff worked the following day.
In handing out his judgement, Jessop said he was "bound to say that the conduct referred to in the schedule bespeaks an organisational culture in which contraventions of the law have been normalised."
The decision follows an earlier judgement in April in which the union was fined $28,500 and several of its officials were fined over the illegal blockade of a 31-unit residential building site in the Melbourne east suburb of Hawthorn after being accused of forcing work delays in a bid to muscle building firm Element Five into a union deal.
Fair Work Building and Construction director Nigel Hadgkiss welcomed Jessop's acknowledgement of the union’s disregard for the law, adding that agency currently had 63 state and territory union officials before the courts for allegedly breaching workplace laws.
“The law says workers have the right to do their work and be free from coercion,"Hadgkiss said. "It is intolerable that on Australian building sites workers are still being threatened.”